This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today.
During my right hon. Friend's busy day will she give consideration to the situation of the Scotch whisky industry, which contributes substantially in jobs, overseas earning and revenue for the tax man? In particular, will she give consideration to the concern being felt in Scotland at the proposed takeover of Arthur Bell? Is my right hon. Friend aware that whisky does not benefit from being diluted too much, and Scotch whisky has already been too greatly diluted by overseas control?
As my hon. Friend is aware, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned about the Scotch whisky industry, because he has a great admiration for it and has tried to give some help to it. As to the dilution by the Guinness bid, that will be considered under the Monopolies and Mergers Act by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He will be making the decision about whether to refer the case after he has received advice from the Director General of Fair Trading.
Before today's debate on the Green Paper, may I ask whether the Prime Minister recalls that in 1973 the Conservative Government discussed the potential for combining the tax and social security systems in one tax credit scheme? Why is it that, 12 years later, with all our computer technology, we are still miles away from that desirable goal?
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, computers were ordered from ICL, and will slowly be coming in. It would not have been possible to carry out that reform before, but before we go into fundamental change, we should look at the consequences of combining the two systems completely.
This is about the movement of goods. Last time we had a European Council I raised the subject of the need to keep strict controls on frontiers for the movement of criminals, terrorists and particularly drugs. All other Heads of Government agreed with that very much.
Will the Prime Minister consider extending the regional aid programme to mining communities where job opportunities have been wiped out by her policies? If not, what advice would she give to her children if they were unfortunate enough to be in these mining communities with no hope of a job?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that NCB (Enterprise) Ltd. has been set up and some £10 million has already been set aside for it. A considerable number of applications have been made under the scheme and the largest ever contract of its kind, for adult retraining, has now been signed between the National Coal Board and the Manpower Services Commission.
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to send a message of sympathy and understanding to the American people at this tragic time, and will she tell President Reagan that, if it is his policy not to negotiate with terrorists, it is a policy that has our support?
Is the right hon. Lady aware of the damage that will be done to the Health Service by the decision not to fund the nurses' pay claim? [Interruption.] Is she aware, in particular, that the general manager in the county of Powys is talking about a 12-month curtailment of capital spending, putting back nurse training programmes and a £300,000 cut in facilities for mental health? Can she tell the House what damage her policies will do to the ill and the elderly in Powys?
I thought that the hon. Gentleman started off with the nurses' pay claim — [Interruption.] It is not always easy to hear against the background of noise precisely what is being said. May I point out that by February the recommendations of the review body on new scales for nurses will be in full operation. If nurses' pay were at the same real level that we inherited, a nursing sister on the maximum of the scale would be over £2,000 worse off than under the new agreement with this Government.
In view of the continued damage being done by certain aspects of the EC, for instance, by the appalling trade deficit against us and by the promise to reform the common agricultural policy, which never comes to anything, what action does the right hon. Lady intend to take against the latest lunatic suggestion that we might get a rebate provided we give the EC the funds to do so?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although deficit funding has failed to create jobs in the United States, the tax-cutting programme there has enabled the American economy to create more jobs in May of last year than all the EC countries together have managed in more than a decade? Will she therefore give her urgent attention to implementing a job creation programme in Britain based on similar tax reductions?
As my hon. Friend is aware, what we can do on tax cuts depends partly on what we do about public expenditure and the level of borrowing. However, my hon. Friend will be aware that during our time in government successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have made cuts in income tax worth £6 billion. That is £6 billion less taken in tax than would have been the case had the same structure been in place that was left by the last Labour Government. That is an average of £260 per family for a person on average male earnings. I take my hon. Friend's point that the further reduction of income tax is a considerable priority.
Talking of gainers and losers, does the Prime Minister recall that two weeks ago I asked her whether she would give us figures for the gainers and losers from the Government's social security review, and she told me:
In accordance with custom … we must wait for the May retail price index figures.".—[Official Report, 4 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 150.]
Those figures were published last Friday. We are to have the statement on the uprating this afternoon. Why have we to wait another four or five months to get those figures? Why will she not keep the promise that she made to me a fortnight ago?
The right hon. Gentleman has got two things muddled up. We had to wait for the May retail prices index figure for this year's uprating, and we shall have to wait for next year's May retail prices index figures for next year's uprating. We must await the decisions on the structure of the changes before we can give a range of illustrative figures. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to approve that approach, because when he was asked last Thursday on the radio to give figures for taxes and contributions for Labour's policies he replied:
I'm not going to put a figure on two or three years' hence".—[Interruption.]
The Prime Minister's hearing is as selective as her memory. If she looks a little further, she will see that I said that the Government have the figures, the DHSS has the figures, the Cabinet has the figures, and apparently the printers have the figures. Why can we not have the figures? Will she now answer my question about her policy and not refer to the policy of the next Government, which I shall lead?
Heaven help Britain if that were ever to happen. The right hon. Gentleman should know by now, in view of his answer, that we can publish a range of illustrative figures only when we know the structure that will come out of the White Paper. Of course, had we been rash enough to give any illustrative figures, they would have been out of date as a result of the upratings that will be announced this afternoon.
Why is it, since the Prime Minister is now so keen to give illustrative figures, that when I asked her on 4 June whether we could have "dependable estimates", she flatly refused to give them? What has caused her conversion in the meantime?
The right hon. Gentleman still does not understand. We must decide the structure and then, bearing in mind the latest uprating figure, a range of figures can be given. That is a great deal better than what the right hon. Gentleman said, which was:
I'm not going to put a figure on two or three years' hence".
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people ascribe the causes of rising crime and violence in our society to a long-term moral and religious decline? Does she accept that the chief factor in that is a lack of discipline and of respect for law and order? The Government cannot stand aside from that trend, as my right hon. Friend appeared to imply when she replied recently to the Leader of the Opposition about the causes of violence. Will my right hon. Friend lead a campaign to restore high moral standards?
My hon. Friend is totally correct. One cannot have a democracy without a system of self-discipline and without upholding law and order. I hope he accepts that, on every occasion, the Government have upheld law and order and have insisted that we do not obey only some laws, but all of them. I cannot personally lead a moral crusade. In our legislation, we insist on religious education in schools as an example that such things matter a great deal to all Governments.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the document which the general management council of the Labour party issued to English local government councillors inciting them to break the law and to refuse to follow the Rates Act 1984 so as to thwart the Government? Does this not show a two-faced approach to local democracy—[Interruption.]
My hon. Friend is correct. The law is indivisible and has to be obeyed. All of the law has to be obeyed. That is what democracy is. There is a chance to change the law, but until it is changed existing law must be upheld, and I totally and utterly condemn anyone opposite—[Interruption.] I totally and utterly condemn anyone who has urged that any law be disobeyed.